When Pope Francis arrives at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York today, he will be looking at stained glass windows that were restored and conserved by employees of Evanston-based Botti Studio of Architectural Arts, Inc. at 919 Grove St.
A $177 million restoration project that has been ongoing for the last five years, the New York cathedral should look spectacular when the pontiff arrives today for an evening prayer service, even though some construction is still going on in the Gothic revival structure.
Pope Francis will also hold a brief audience with those who worked on the project, including about eight Botti employees, according to Ettore Christopher Botti, the Evanstonian who owns the studio.
Botti traces his company’s origins back to the 16th Century in Italy. His grandfather came to America in the 19th Century and started the American operation in New York.
Ettore Botti, 64, was born in the Bronx, but moved to Evanston in 1961, when he was just 10. His father, Italo, had landed a major piece of business with Cardinal John Cody to do extensive restoration work on Catholic-owned properties in the Chicago area.
Botti was graduated from Evanston Township High School, Class of 1969, where he was a member of the school’s swim and baseball teams. After high school, he received his college degree from Loyola University in Chicago before returning to join his dad on Grove Street, where he has worked for more than 40 years.
Ettore Christopher Botti
Many organizations have been involved in the restoration of St. Patrick’s, where painstaking efforts were taken to restore it to its original glory. The cathedral’s cornerstone was laid in 1858, but the structure was not dedicated until 1879. Since then, a great deal of decay, including falling rock, necessitated the restoration.
When it was constructed, the cathedral was located quite a distance from the main part of the city, which started in the financial district at the southern tip of Manhattan. It was several years before the center of population moved northward and surrounded St. Patrick’s, which occupies an entire city block on Fifth Avenue from 50th to 51st streets.
Restoration and conservation of the 75 stained glass windows, consisting of 3,200 panels, was contracted out to the Botti Studio. Each panel was examined in place, and about 10 percent of them were removed, carefully crated, and shipped to Botti’s facility in LaPorte, Ind., where the restoration of the panels was conducted. Then they were shipped back to New York for reinstallation.
Those panels that did not have to be removed were examined and restored in place, involving as many as 15 members of the glaziers union in New York, Botti said.
Not long after the family moved to Evanston and took space in Chicago for the business, Botti’s father, Panzaroni, had a heart attack, and decided to forego the daily commute into the city, which is why he purchased the Evanston location on Grove Street, where five fulltime artists are employed.
An artist, Migla, at work in the Evanston studio
According to its website, the studio “specializes in the design, restoration, conservation, and fabrication of leaded stained glass and Dalle de Verre glass. The studio also specializes in statuary, marble, mosaic, bronze, brass, steel, painting and decorating, murals, and all types of woodwork.”
In Chicago, the company’s work can be seen at the Chicago Cultural Center and the Art Institute of Chicago, among other locations.
Although the company is many decades old, it continues to respond to changing technology. Most notable are television screens in the various studios that enable employees to Skype with each other and confer on projects, even though they are physically separated by thousands of miles, whether in New York, LaPorte, Sarasota, San Diego, or Nassau.
Using Skype, employees communicate among various company locations
“Because of the television links,” Botti says, “our employees all know and recognize each other and collaborate just as well as if they were all in the same location.”
Botti’s 94-year-old mother, Ethlyn, a noted fashion illustrator, lives at the nearby King Home and walks to the office every day, weather permitting, where she is involved in the design of many of the studio’s projects.
Over her lifetime, Botti says, she has done portrait work for many movie and television stars.